Shelf Awareness for Monday, September 15, 2008

St. Martin's Press: Promise That You Will Sing about Me: The Power and Poetry of Kendrick Lamar by Miles Marshall Lewis

Rodale Books: Happy Not Perfect: Upgrade Your Mind, Challenge Your Thoughts, and Free Yourself from Anxiety by Poppy Jamie

Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster: Animal by Lisa Taddeo

Andrews McMeel Publishing: Olive by Emma Gannon

Shadow Mountain: Georgana's Secret by Arlem Hawks

Atheneum Books for Young Readers: Almost There and Almost Not by Linda Urban

Yen Press: Solo Leveling, Vol. 1 illustrated by Dubu (Redice Studio)

Harmony: Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting by Lisa Genova

Quotation of the Day

Key Ingredient of Successful Business Books

"The key to writing a successful business book is being vague about definitions."--Anita Elberse, professor, Harvard Business School, speaking at the Book Industry Study Group annual meeting last Friday. (For more about the meeting and Elberse's presentation on the Long Tail, see below.)


Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Amina's Song by Hena Khan


BISG Meeting: Long Tail's Head Remains Most Important

As applied to the book business, the Long Tail--Chris Anderson's idea that companies like can sell many more titles than traditional retailers and that "the future of business is selling less of more"--has increased sales of non-bestsellers but not in amounts large enough to warrant publishers and retailers to shift huge resources and attention away from more-popular titles, Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse said in a presentation at the Book Industry Study Group's annual meeting last Friday in New York City. "The tail is longer but not fatter," as she put it.

Based on research of sales and usage statistics for videos and music--and a little data from books--Elberse said that "there are more and more titles [available] but their average sales are getting lower and lower" and "there are a rapidly increasing number of titles that never or rarely sell."

She asked, "Can you sell and market profitably a title that sells 300 copies a year?" She answered literally in a word, "No."

Drawing on concepts outlined in a 1963 book, Formal Theories of Mass Behavior by William McPhee (which she noted has long been out of print and would make a great Long Tail candidate), Elberse stated that "two disadvantages of niche products" like those made more available by the Long Tail are that they are "not well known" and they are niche products because many consumers don't like them.

In addition, Elberse said that "light users" of online music and film services and retailers are "a relatively large proportion of the customers of more popular products." For example, she said that in the book world, a customer who buys one book will buy "James Patterson." If these customers wind up buying more products, they will venture into Long Tail territory and may well be disappointed.

Moreover, as "online channels have significantly broadened customer access to niche products, hits still dominate. Even the people most interested in niche products still like hits."

Elberse's advice to publishers was not to change "the blockbuster strategy. Don't radically change the way you allocate resources." She noted that online retailers need "niche products" but must "strictly manage the cost of offering them" and shouldn't "incur any costs unless a transaction is involved." She also suggested retailers "resist the temptation to direct customers to the Long Tail because too often they'll like those products less."

For more information about Elberse's research, see her article in the July/August issue of the Harvard Business Review.


In other news from BISG, the board has approved adding a fourth position to the BISG staff, that of associate director, a move made "to invest prudently in the growth of the organization, even in difficult times," executive director Michael Healey said. He added that he hoped to make an announcement about the position "later in the year."

The organization continues to be in strong financial shape but is projecting a $58,000 deficit for the current fiscal year, the first deficit in a long time, because of "conservative growth assumptions" related to the economy and because of the addition of an associate director.

BISG co-chair Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks noted that the mission of the organization, which includes increasing efficiency and driving costs out of the business, has "never been more important or relevant in this challenging economic climate."

Development of identifiers for the e-book continues to be a focus of BISG. The group is refiguring its annual Book Industry Trends publication so that it has a "framework to look at all kinds of questions," Raccah said.--John Mutter


Highlights: Bring home fun with a purpose all year round!

Notes: Wallace Dies; Bookstore Election Updates

David Foster Wallace, best known for his novel Infinite Jest, died at his California home Friday of "an apparent suicide," the New York Times reported. He was 46.  

In its summary of the author's career, the Times noted that Wallace's "prodigiously observant, exuberantly plotted, grammatically and etymologically challenging, philosophically probing and culturally hyper-contemporary novels, stories and essays made him an heir to modern virtuosos like Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo, an experimental contemporary of William T. Vollmann, Mark Leyner and Nicholson Baker and a clear influence on younger tour-de-force stylists like Dave Eggers and Jonathan Safran Foer."

"He was a huge talent, our strongest rhetorical writer,” said Jonathan Franzen. "He was also as sweet a person as I’ve ever known and as tormented a person as I’ve ever known."

The NYT also featured "an appraisal" of Wallace's life and work by Michiko Kakutani.


Storyopolis, Sherman Oaks, Calif., is celebrating its new location at 14945 Ventura Boulevard as well as the opening of the Gallery, which the shop's website describes as "a wonderful and sophisticated new gallery experience, exhibiting the works of renowned artists from around the world."


A timely election season vote of confidence for Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., came from the Santa Monica, Calif., Mirror: "To enter Powell's is to feel the audacity of hope: The hope that banality will not conquer the collective American psyche any time soon."


In other election news, the Coastline Pilot reported that a window display at Laguna Beach Books, Laguna Beach, Calif., which features topical books as well as life-size cutouts of Barack Obama and John McCain, has inspired "political tricksters [who] apparently see the display as an opportunity to promote their own agendas."

"We are not taking a position, it just seemed like the right time to showcase the books with all the political activity going on," said Danielle Bauter, the bookshop's events and marketing coordinator. But books have disappeared, been rearranged and "a couple of times, customers have slipped in anti-Obama books."

Bauter added that when she set up the display, "I tried to make sure it was even, but as the books are sold, the display cannot always be equal--it depends on the stock.”


St. Marks Bookshop, New York, N.Y., earned thoughtful compliments from the Jacket Copy book blog in the Los Angeles Times: "But it's not just the books at St. Mark's that offer solace to a reader in a society that increasingly views itself as post-literate. It's also the place itself, which at 11:30 a.m. on a Friday was (dare I say it) crowded, aisles clogged with people browsing, all of us marked by the glorious aimlessness of the reader, the notion that in here, at least, we might keep the world a little bit at bay.

"This, it seems to me, is the real draw of books--not escapism but real (if temporary) escape. If the scene at St. Mark's this morning is any indication, I'm not the only one who needs that in the midst of these confusing days."


Swoon Reads: Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Philip Roth on All Things Considered

Kim and Fred Goldman are making appearances this week on behalf of If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer (Beaufort Books, $14.95, 9780825305931/0825305934), the book by O.J. Simpson that originally was to be published by Regan Books but whose rights were eventually awarded to the family of Ron Goldman, who was murdered with Nicole Simpson.

The Goldmans appear today on the View, tomorrow on the Early Show, Inside Edition, TruTV and Oprah and Friends and on Wednesday on Dr. Phil.


This morning on the Today Show: Blair Underwood, author of In the Night of the Heat: A Tennyson Hardwick Novel (Atria, $25, 9781416569978/1416569979).

Also on Today: Graydon Carter, author of Vanity Fair: The Portraits: A Century of Iconic Images (Abrams, $65, 9780810972988/0810972980).


This morning on the Early Show: Lynne Cheney, author of We the People: The Story of Our Constitution (S&S, $17.99, 9781416954187/141695418X). The Vice President's wife also appears today on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes and tomorrow on Fox & Friends.


Today on the Diane Rehm Show: Maggie Scarf, author of September Songs: The Good News About Marriage in the Later Years (Riverhead, $24.95, 9781594488504/1594488509).


Today on All Things Considered: Philip Roth, who talks about his latest novel, Indignation (Houghton Mifflin, $26, 9780547054841/054705484X).


Tonight on Larry King Live: Meghan McCain, author of My Dad, John McCain (Aladdin, $16.99, 9781416975281/1416975284). She also appears tomorrow on Entertainment Tonight and the Late Show with David Letterman.


Tonight on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Bart Gellman, author of Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency (Penguin Press, $27.95, 9781594201868/1594201862).


Tonight on the Colbert Report: Peter J. Gomes, author of The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About the Good News? (HarperOne, $14.95, 9780060000745/0060000740).


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Ty Pennington, author of Good Design Can Change Your Life (S&S, $25, 978074329474/0743294742).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Dr. Phil McGraw, author of Real Life: Preparing for the 7 Most Challenging Days of Your Life (Free Press, $26.99, 9780743264952/0743264959). He will also appear tonight on Larry King Live.

Also on Today: Peggy Noonan, author of Patriotic Grace: What It Is and Why We Need It Now (Collins, $19.95, 9780061735820/0061735825).


Tomorrow on Live with Regis & Kelly: Blair Underwood, author of In the Night of the Heat: A Tennyson Hardwick Novel (Atria, $25, 9781416569978/1416569979).


Tomorrow on Bloomberg on the Money: Sam Wyly, author of 1,000 Dollars and an Idea (Newmarket Press, $24.95, 9781557048035/1557048037).


Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Thomas Hager, author of The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery That Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler (Harmony, $24.95, 9780307351784/0307351785).


Tomorrow on Oprah: a tribute to the late Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture (Hyperion, $21.95, 9781401323257/1401323251).


GLOW: Shambhala: Finding Refuge: Heart Work for Healing Collective Grief by Cassandra Michelle Johnson

Books & Authors

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next picks:


Ritual by Mo Hayder (Atlantic, $24, 9780871139924/0871139928). "The queen of funky thrillers has done it again, as a female English police diver named Flea discovers a severed hand, leading us into the world of black market African superstitions and rituals in Bristol, England. Mo Hayder's weird, she's wild, and I love her!"--Jerry Kannel, Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop, Brookfield, Wis.

Old Masters, New World by Cynthia Saltzman (Viking, $27.95, 9780670018314/0670018317). "In the late 19th century, flush with money, an elite group of Americans began to purchase Old Master paintings from Europe. The stories of these luminaries are illuminated in this fascinating and colorful book."--Tova Beiser, Brown University Bookstore, Providence, R.I.


Changing Tides by Michael Thomas Ford (Kensington, $15, 9780758210609/0758210604). "Set in Monterey, California, this well-written, breezy novel follows its three main characters--a father, a teenage daughter, and a visiting scholar--through a summer of discovery as Ford explores the common need in all of us to love."--Joe Eichman, Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, Colo.

For Ages 9-12

Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew
by Ursula Vernon (Harcourt, $15, 9780152063757/0152063757). "Nurk has mixed feelings about adventure, but he's the grandson of the swashbuckling long-lost Surka, whose diary entries fill him with pride and give him a drop of courage. Off he goes in a converted snail shell, and the quest is on. Vernon's writing is a charming balance of probable emotions in improbable circumstances, twinkling alliteration, and 100 other flashes of fun."--Carol B. Chittenden, Eight Cousins, Falmouth, Mass.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Eternal by Lisa Scottoline

Fired Up Over The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

One of the best reads we had this summer was an ARE of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, a Swedish thriller that begins a trilogy that has sold 2.7 million copies in Sweden--a country with a population of 9 million. It's also been a wild bestseller in the other Scandinavian countries, Germany and France. Tomorrow Knopf publishes the book here in a translation by Reg Keeland.

The mystery involves a teenaged girl from a powerful Swedish industrial family, Harriet Vanger, who vanished without a trace in 1966 on a day when the extended, highly dysfunctional family had gathered on an island that was cut off from the rest of the world. Was she murdered? If so, how could her body disappear and who in the family could have done such a thing?

Some 40 years later, the still-grieving, still-baffled patriarch of the Vanger family asks Mikael Blomkvist, a muckraking journalist much like author Larsson, to look into the matter. Reluctantly Blomkvist accepts and is helped by Lisabeth Salander, a 24-year-old hacker and researcher--she of the dragon tattoo--who is the most intriguing and intense personality in a work of fiction we've encountered in a long time. Slowly Blomkvist and Salander learn that the Vanger family is sicker and nastier than either had ever thought.

Although the very beginning is a bit slow, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is mesmerizing, reminiscent of the Martin Beck series by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö and other somewhat dark Nordic procedurals--but animated by Salander as well as by Erika Berger, Blomkvist's business partner, who is married but has had a lifelong romance with Blomkvist.

A theme of the book is power, as wielded financially, through companies, through the media and most significantly, violently by men against women. (The book's Swedish title is Men Who Hate Women.) Salander in particular discovers the horrors men can inflict on women--and has the most unusual ways of responding.

Sadly author Stieg Larsson died before his Millennium Trilogy was published. As a result, Knopf is promoting the book in about every way a publisher can when an author is not involved. The house distributed some 7,000 AREs of the book, and it was a major giveaway at BEA as well as at ALA--and one of the books presented at the ALA's book buzz panel. (Hosted by Nora Rawlinson of Early Word.) Among other efforts, the publisher took out ads on Shelfari and created a Facebook page.

Already many booksellers are fans. Dexter McLeod of Joseph-Beth Books called the book "a classic locked-room murder mystery" on a level with Agatha Christie that features a family with "as many dark secrets as in any V.C. Andrews yarn." He concluded, "Throw in a dash of sordid Nazi history and a calculating serial killer, and you've got one of the most original thrillers you've ever read. This is a must read, both for newcomers and those jaded by the genre."

McLeod said that he is making it a staff pick as well as see about giving it a featured spot at the front doors and registers.

For her part, Lyn Roberts of Square Books, Oxford, Miss., called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo "exciting and multi-layered" and said that with its hero and the "main female character being such a quirky outsider," it reminded her of Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg. Square Books is writing up the book in its newsletter and will handsell it.

Of course, the book has fans in-house. At Frankfurt a year ago, an agent who didn't represent the title recommended it to Knopf president Sonny Mehta. He read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in one sitting and decided it was "a book he and we had to publish," Paul Bogaards, senior v-p, executive director of publicity, promotion and media relations at Knopf, told Shelf Awareness. "Everybody who's read it has the same response--that it's one of the more original crime thrillers that they've read in years. It's atmospheric and contemporary and has two protagonists who are compellingly rendered and are absolutely fascinating."

The book's first printing is 150,000, which is what Knopf indicated earlier this year. With a bit of amusement, Bogaards commented, "You know you have a success when the announced and actual printings mesh."

Larsson's other two books in the Millennium series will be published here a year and two years from now. As a result, there's no mystery about what we'll be reading in summer 2009 and 2010.--John Mutter


Custom House: Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau

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